Feel like repealing everything that’s happened in the last couple of weeks? The new movie Hot Tub Time Machine takes that idea and runs with it. What if we repealed the last couple of decades? What if Reagan was still president, girls with massively teased hair wore color-block outfits, and Spandau Ballet was the makeout music of choice?
Hot Tub isn’t the funniest movie since The Hangover — it’s funnier. It makes comedy stars out of career character actors Rob Corddry (The Heartbreak Kid) and Craig Robinson (The Office). It even makes John Cusack likable, mainly because, in giving him the role of Adam, a broken-down middle-aged loser whose girlfriend dumps him and takes their TV with her, it scuffs him up a little.
Robinson plays Nick, another nobody — he plays a guy who works with dogs, one of whom features in the first of the movie’s several sensationally funny gross-out gags — who once wanted to be a musician. Nick and Adam’s friend Lou, aka “The Violator” (an outstanding Corddry) is the biggest loser of the three, attempting suicide while listening to Motley Crue in his car.
Together with Adam’s nerdy 20-something nephew (Clark Duke), the guys try to pull themselves together with a visit to the ski resort where, in the mid-80s, they spent some of the happiest weekends of their lives. “We were young, we had momentum, we were winning,” says Cusack, regretfully. Too bad now the place smells like cats and its only bellhop (Crispin Glover) is a one-armed psychotic. How exactly he lost that arm is the source of the best running gag in a movie that’s full of them.
Glover’s presence – he’s also in theaters with Alice in Wonderland, though he doesn’t do much with that part — is one of many shout-outs to Back to the Future, whose plot clearly inspired this movie. After the four guys get in a hot tub … well, you can figure out what happens. Robinson gets to deliver the Snakes on a Plane-caliber title line, and when the friends notice that everyone in the ski resort is dressed strangely, that MTV is still playing videos, and Ronald Reagan is the undisputed leader of the free world, Nick turns to one fellow skier to ask one simple question that will determine whether they’ve really gone back in time: “What color is Michael Jackson?”